Daily Archives: June 4, 2018

SPENN: Cost-free payment services launched in Rwanda

Blockbonds together with I&M Bank Rwanda Ltd proudly announces full product rollout of SPENN.

SPENN is a mobile banking app powered by I&M Bank Rwanda Ltd, covering both personal and business accounts.

All services through SPENN are cost-free.

By downloading the cost-free SPENN mobile banking app, anyone can access a SPENN bank account. Every user can perform cost-free money transfers, cost-free payments in stores, and cost-free cash-out and deposit at any I&M Bank Rwanda Ltd branch throughout Rwanda.

SPENN also offers a cost-free business solution, which is a free point-of-sale solution to anyone selling goods and services, by upgrading to a SPENN+ user.

Anyone who holds a smartphone can instantly register with SPENN. The registration only requires phone number, name and NIDA (National Identification Agency) number.

Mr Jens Glaso, CEO of Blockbonds and SPENN, is proud of being the first actor in digitalizing the national currency of Rwanda.

“We believe Rwanda will be an example on how an effective and structured decision-making process drastically can benefit a nation’s economy, and at the same time help people to take the first step out of the cash society,” Mr Glaso said.

“I&M Bank Rwanda Ltd is a proud pioneer in supporting and bringing Rwanda closer towards a cashless economy. We truly believe that SPENN will transform the way Rwanda currently transact, and increase efficiency and prosperity for the Rwandan population,” CEO of I&M Bank Rwanda Ltd, Mr Robin Bairstow said.

With a population of 12 million people, having fast and affordable internet access, Rwanda is a mature market, with anticipation of a high rate of adoption for the product SPENN.

About Blockbonds AS
Blockbonds is a Norwegian fintech company with a clear mission to contribute to global financial inclusion for vulnerable and marginalized populations, through its product called SPENN.
The team consists of over 100 people who are working in the field on a daily basis, and through advocacy and awareness raising, aim to help the 2 billion people who have limited or no access to financial services.
Blockbonds’ vision is to create a world where everyone can manage their savings, payments and investments in an honest, transparent and secure way.
Blockbonds has chosen to focus initially on the African and Asian markets of operations – primarily in markets where the unbanked population is vastly represented, with viable technical infrastructure to support the product and where trust for mobile payments are, to varying degrees, socially accepted and welcomed.
Blockbonds has created a pan-global model, with which everyone in the world can access financial services equal to those in more developed markets, completely free, by utilizing the security and transparency of blockchain technology.
Jens Glaso, CEO & Founder
jens@blockbonds.io   //   +47 40 40 47 50

About I&M Bank Rwanda Ltd
Established in 1963, I&M Bank Rwanda Ltd (formerly – BCR) is a leading Financial Services Provider with a regional presence in Africa.  In Rwanda, the company’s product offering includes Retail Banking, Business Banking, Corporate and Institutional Banking. The Bank has a proven track record in pioneering innovative financial services and supporting the Republic of Rwanda’s strategy for Financial Inclusion.
Tel: +250 788 162 006 , +250 252 595 200
Fax: +250 252 573 395
Call Center Tel: 3227.


Amnesty: Fight for Raqqa Took Heavy Toll on Civilians

Amnesty International published a new report on the devastating toll suffered by civilians trapped in the eastern Syrian city of Raqqa during the four-month battle to liberate the city from the Islamic State (IS) terror group.

The 70-page report, “War of Annihilation,” investigated 42 airstrike locations, reviewed satellite imagery, interviewed 112 witnesses and survivors during the last few months of the battle, and documented the stories of four families.

“What Amnesty International researchers did is they went into the city, interviewed people and found four specific families who lost dozens of their members in airstrikes, so they would have a better sense of what the experience was like for people living there,” Daphne Eviatar, director of security with human rights at Amnesty International USA, told VOA.

The “war of annihilation” against IS began when U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis announced the acceleration of operations against IS in May 2017.

“Our intention is that the foreign fighters do not survive the fight to return home to North Africa, to Europe, to America, to Asia, to Africa. We are not going to allow them to do so. We are going to stop them there and take apart the caliphate,” Mattis said at the time.

The battle to liberate Raqqa, code-named the Wrath of Euphrates, started in June 2017 and ended with the city’s recapture in October, with U.S.-led coalition airstrikes and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on the ground.

Coalition forces in Iraq and Syria freed about 7.7 million people and 98 percent of the area previously controlled by IS, the coalition said in April.

Challenging combat

Amnesty International described the city during the fighting as a deadly labyrinth trapping civilians trying to flee. IS used civilians as human shields, preventing many from leaving the city.

“Urban combat in residential areas presents inherent challenges. These challenges were exacerbated in Raqqa by IS’s determination to operate amongst the civilian population and to use civilians as human shields,” the report said.

The Hashish family was among four interviewed by Amnesty. Munira Hashish lost 18 members of her family between July and August 2017. She told Amnesty researchers that when they tried to escape the city, IS militants arrested them and forced them to stay.

“We had tried to escape the city but couldn’t manage it. About five days after Eid [June 30-July 1, 2017], we tried to flee across the river, but Daesh [Arabic acronym for IS] caught us. They beat the men very badly and detained me and the other women in a house for a day before they let us go,” Hashish told Amnesty.

As the effort to liberate the city ramped up, so did the numbers of civilians killed in the airstrikes.

The coalition conducted a total of 29,254 airstrikes between August 2014 and the end of March 2018, the coalition said in a statement in April. A coalition review found the total number of civilian casualties during this period was 2,135.

The way forward

Despite the vast damage to infrastructure and an absence of public services, about 132,000 civilians have returned to Raqqa since October 2017, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs (OCHA) reported in May.

Raqqa Civil Council, a civil entity established to restore stability and services to the city, is working with special teams that are interviewing civilians and gathering evidence to estimate losses and provide aid and compensation to civilians.

“With the support from the coalition and United Nations, we are currently working to restore a normal life so all the displaced can return back,” Mustafa Abdi, a journalist working with Raqqa Civil Council, told VOA.

Amnesty’s Eviatar said as the battle against IS continues, it is important for the U.S.-led coalition to take into account the large-scale destruction caused by the relentless bombardment of the city, as well as secure the city and provide access to humanitarian aid.

“The coalition needs to participate in peace-building and reconstruction efforts to help create a more stable society,” Eviatar said.

“With the support from the coalition and United Nations, we are currently working to restore a normal life so all the displaced can return back,” Mustafa Abdi, a journalist working with Raqqa Civil Council, told VOA.

Source: Voice of America

UN Official: Governments Should Sanction Leaders of South Sudan Conflict

A senior U.N. official is calling on governments to target the leaders of South Sudan’s warring factions with painful financial measures and other actions to persuade them to change the behavior that has plunged their country into a state of perpetual conflict and suffering.

South Sudan’s conflict is in its fifth year, with nothing more than unimaginable suffering for millions of civilians in sight. The United Nations says armed men subject civilians to unbearable abuse, using murder and rape as weapons of war.

The war has driven more than 4 million South Sudanese from their homes and according to the U.N., more than half the population, or 7 million people, need humanitarian assistance.

Despite ongoing efforts, U.N. emergency relief coordinator Mark Lowcock says the peace process has produced nothing.The war goes on.The gross violations of human rights go on and so does the suffering.

Lowcock says the belligerents do not seem to care about peace or the welfare of their people. He tells VOA measures that bear more directly on the financial interests of the people in control of the military should be considered.

In other places, things like visa bans have been used, various forms of financial sanctions have been used, said Lowcock. There are lots of concerns about how various parties in the conflict are enriching themselves through South Sudan’s oil and gold and teak and other natural resources. There is also concern that a lot of South Sudan’s wealth is being held outside the country.

Lowcock says some governments have legislative arrangements that allow them to look into these hidden stashes of wealth.

The U.N. official says he welcomed a recent announcement by the White House that Washington was planning to review its assistance to South Sudan. He says similar action is being taken by ECHO, the European Commission’s Humanitarian Office

While operational changes are being considered, Lowcock notes nobody is talking about cutting off humanitarian assistance to the people. He says this must continue, as without emergency relief the situation would worsen and many people would die.

In a related development, a Security Council resolution to extend sanctions on South Sudan was renewed for 45 more days Friday after the U.S.-led effort passed at the U.N.

South Sudan’s conflict began in 2013 as a power struggle between South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir, and his former deputy, Riek Machar.

Source: Voice of America

US Airstrike Kills 27 Terrorist Fighters in N. Somalia

A U.S. airstrike in northern Somalia Saturday killed 27 al-Shabab militants, the U.S. Africa Command said.

It posted a Twitter message Monday saying the strike near Bosaso, in semi-autonomous Puntland state, was carried out in coordination with the Somali government.

U.S. commanders said no civilians were killed.

U.S. forces will continue to use all authorized and appropriate measures to protect U.S. citizens and to disable terrorist threats, the command said.

Targets will include terror training camps and safe havens throughout Somalia and the region.

Another U.S. airstrike killed 12 al-Shabab militants Thursday south of Mogadishu.

Saturday’s airstrike came after al-Shabab extremists attacked a military base in Puntland, claiming to have killed five soldiers, wounding seven and destroying Somali military equipment.

Al-Qaida-affiliated al-Shabab is fighting to topple Somalia’s Western-backed government. It is blamed for countless terrorist attacks, including an October truck bombing in Mogadishu that killed more than 500 people.

Source: Voice of America

France’s Macron Urges Donors to Quickly Finance Sahel Force

French President Emmanuel Macron called on international donors to quickly make financing available for the Sahel regional counterterror force.

In a news conference in Paris with visiting Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou, Macron said money “now needs to be disbursed” to allow the five-nation regional force, known as the G5 Sahel, to keep functioning.

He said the European Union started financing the force last week and will provide equipment in coming weeks. He called on other donors like Saudi Arabia to meet their financial commitments. Issoufou expressed his concerns over the financial sustainability of the force.

Earlier this year, international donors pledged 414 million euros ($510 million) to help Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger set up a counterterror force to combat the deadly jihadist threat in the Sahel region.

In an interview to French television France 24, Issoufou said negotiations are ongoing for the release of two humanitarian workers who were kidnapped in Niger. He said Jeffery Woodke, an American abducted in 2016 and Jorg Lang, a German abducted in April this year, are alive.

Issoufou said “we have some news, we know they are alive. We keep working on creating conditions for their release.”

He said he couldn’t confirm their precise location but one probable hypothesis is that they are being detained in northern Mali.

Source: Voice of America